Anything Goes!

What was life like during the roaring twenties and thirties?


The twenties and thirties was a decade that saw the first commercially made television sets and movies with a soundtrack.  ‘Art Deco’ and the ‘Surrealist’ movement was reflected in the dazzling art of Henry Moore, Wassily Kandinsky, Pablo Picasso and Clarice Cliff. The Museum of Modern Art opened in 1929, in Manhattan. We see thriving characters such as Charlie Chaplin, Cole Porter and Louis Armstrong entertain the nation, along with film-makers Alfred Hitchcock and Victor Fleming.

The roaring twenties also known as the ‘Jazz Age’,  through to the thirties, was a time when fashion for ladies changed dramatically. We say goodbye to the restrictive and rigid look of the Edwardian and Victorian eras and introduce dresses with lowered waistlines and less emphasis on the chest. You could even say the right accessories made a so-so dress into a smashing Gatsby success!

Yet, even though fashion gave ladies more freedom to express their personalities there was still etiquette to be followed, particularly where wearing gloves was concerned. Along with etiquette came the world of accessorising. Without accessories a dress is just a dress; more importantly, without accessories and lady is not a lady and she should never leave the house without a hat, a handbag and of course gloves!

Paris Brochure Gloves & Lace 1920’s

To appear in public without gloves was neither polite nor proper. It would be rude to eat, drink or smoke with your gloves on. You were advised not to apply makeup whilst wearing your gloves or wear jewellery over your gloves, with the exception of bracelets. It was essential that you avoided carrying your gloves; they are either on your hands, in your bag or pocket! It was important to remember that gloves were an integral part of your dress.

The history of gloves gives a fascinating insight into the social development over the past two centuries. There was even a ‘Dictionary of Etiquette’: A Guide To Polite Usage For Social Functions by Walter Cox Green published in 1904, which commented on the etiquette of wearing gloves. It dictated many places and occasions where it was considered correct to wear your gloves. A lady was expected to wear gloves whilst out walking, shopping, at tea dances, balls, dinner parties, the opera or theatre. Men on the other hand should be seen wearing gloves whilst in the street or at a ball, when paying a call, driving, riding and in church. Finally, it was very important when shaking hands to remove the glove from your right hand. If there was not enough time to do so, you must apologise by saying “pardon my glove.”

Gloves during the roaring twenties through to the thirties had a particular style about them; the length stopped at the wrist or they were a gauntlet length with the cuff often of a lavish design. In the summer time it was still etiquette to wear gloves – but they would be made of silk, lace, cotton or ivory chamois. These styles of gloves were cooler on the hands, but still gave an image of a feminine woman in society.


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